Jun 1, 2010

Book Review: The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova

The story helped the miles pass as we listened to the 17 discs over several long trips. The Swan Thieves tells the sad story of a disturbed man and his obsession with a painting which he tried to destroy with a knife in the National Gallery, and the story of the painter and the subject of the canvas he attacked.

The two stories are meshed nicely by author Elizabeth Kostova. My traveling companions thought the purpose of the novel was to tell the story of the artist Beatrice, adding Robert Oliver only as an interesting way to tell her life story as a gifted but thwarted artist.

I thought the names of the people in the story were significant. Beatrice was adored by Robert Oliver and an inspiration for his art in The Swan Thieves, just as a different Beatrice was the muse for the poet Virgil in the Aeneid. Marlow the psychiatrist observes and tells most of Robert's story in Kostova's book, just as a different Marlow observed the crazed Kurtz in Conrad's The Heart of Darkness. The connections just popped into my mind as I listened to The Swan Thieves.

Reactions to the audio version: The voices matched the characters very well, I thought, except in the case of Beatrice. I could tell that the reader was not French and only trying to imitate a French accent for Beatrice. As a result, many of words sounded as if French speaking Beatrice was speaking English with a lisp. Beatrice's lisping bothered me till almost the very end of the audio. The other speakers, including Anne Heche as Robert's first wife, were excellent.

Art lovers and those who like women's fiction will enjoy The Swan Thieves, as will anyone eager for good storytelling.


  1. I have got to take the time to listen to The Swan Thieves on audio!

  2. J. Kaye: It's a great way to "read" the book! You'll enjoy it.

  3. I loved your blog. Thank you.


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